Butterflies do all kinds of cool things. They fly, pollinate plants, and slurp nectar out of flowers with tongues as long as their bodies. They also help rediscover plants that have been missing since 1888!

Himesh Dilruwan Jayasinghe was chasing a small leopard butterfly (named for is leopard-like spots) in the Knuckles Mountains of Sri Lanka. He noticed that the leopard butterfly laid its eggs on an unusual plant. It was a Rinorea decora plant.

What was amazing about this sighting is that the Rinorea decora plant has not been seen since 1888. In fact, it was categorized as extinct on Sri Lanka’s last red list of threatened plants (updated in 2012).

Recorded as extinct in 2012, Rinorea decora was rediscovered during a chase for a rare butterfly. Image courtesy of Himesh Jayasinghe.

Himesh also rediscovered two other plants that were considered to be extinct in Sri Lanka.

What is the red list?

Biologists keep a list, called the red list, of threatened plants in Sri Lanka. They update it every few years to see if any plants on the list have recovered or gone extinct. The list is an important tool for plant conservation because it helps people keep track of how plant species are doing.

Young botanists are helping update the red list and getting involved with plant conservation in Sri Lanka. It is interesting work.

Based on a story from Mongabay.com: